Woman sues Rite Aid over treatment of son

Hampden security guard accused of grabbing boy, searching his pockets

December 15, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A mother who says she watched helplessly as a plainclothes security guard at a Rite Aid in Hampden scooped up her 10-year-old son and held him upside down is suing the guard and the corporation for $6 million.

In the lawsuit, filed this week in Baltimore City Circuit Court, Tracy Martin claims that the guard, Walter Jackson, then dragged her son back into the store and searched his pockets as the boy screamed and cried.

Jody Cook, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp., said she hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Martin said she had allowed her son, a Boy Scout and a fifth-grade honor student at Medfield Heights Elementary School, to run into the pharmacy Sept. 18 to pick up a prescription as she waited in the family minivan with her two young daughters. The Martins, Hampden residents, have patronized the store, on 41st Street in the Green Spring Tower Square shopping plaza, for more than a decade, Martin said.

But the errand that evening turned into an ordeal for the family, she said.

When Martin looked up and saw her son being grabbed, she and the girls jumped out of the minivan and began yelling for Jackson to let him go, she said. They thought Stephen Martin was being abducted, she said.

Once Jackson had the boy back inside the store, he crammed his hands into the pockets of the boy's baggy Nike pants to look for stolen items, she said. He told the mother he was a security guard and that he could do what he wanted, she said.

Finding nothing, he left the crying boy lying on the floor and walked away without apologizing, the mother said. She described the guard as a burly man over 6 feet tall. "I just think that for someone of that size to be so aggressive with a little boy," she said, "that is just taking it way beyond his job."

Since Sept. 18, Tracy Martin said, Stephen has had trouble sleeping and fears being alone. He has had numerous therapy sessions - part of why the Martins are seeking compensation from Rite Aid, the lawsuit said - and remains traumatized by what happened, his mother said.

"If I'm out of sight, he'll start screaming, `Mom! Where are you?" she said.

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